MindscanMindscan by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mindscan is one of those books heavy on ideas, well-plotted, but not written as well as it deserves to be.

so here’s this guy, with a potentially fatal disease. there’s no cure. all he can do, if he wants to live, is get his mind uploaded into an android body and let his “real” one go live out its span on the moon (where there’s no legal jurisdiction). so he does.

complications ensue.

the problem with this book is not that the complications are not believable; they are, Sawyer is quite good enough to be consistent in his creation. they stem clearly from what one sees of the characters’ characters. the problem is that we never see enough of the characters’ inner lives, really; they just hoist their parts of the plot/idea in workmanlike fashion and carry them to credible conclusions.

but here’s a guy who uploaded his consciousness into an android body. don’t you want to know what that would do to a psyche? i certainly do. but generally speaking, we get a bit of physical malfunction, some disapproval from old friends, and a report on what a bummer it is to never be able to drink a beer again.

as a beer lover, i have to say, i would never be dismissive of the loss of beer.

i haven’t the foggiest where my self/consciousness/mind/soul resides–is it all in the brain only? in the body? in the interaction between the two? on the coffee table next to the car keys? Sawyer does explore these questions, but in a philosophical, not a personal, fashion. he covers a lot of the research ground in scientific consciousness studies (altho the brain/body nexus is missed, but that might be due to the publication date of the book).

but surely removing yourself from your body is an intensely personal experience? not having a physical body is an intensely personal experience? that comment about beer earlier isn’t entirely facetious. i–whatever is i–like very much having a body, even when it pains me, ’cause i love food, and touch, and warmth, and the sound of my son’s voice. i can’t imagine being divorced from my physical self. apparently Sawyer had a hard time imagining it too.

anyway, it’s a good book for grist–idea grist, what-would-happen-if grist. not such a good book for literary grist, or if you’re wanting to get to know a disembodied stranger.

and one final comment! there’s a trial in the book! in fact, the trial covers a lot of the book.

and it’s such bosh, for the most part! ay! ay! ay! can we broadcast to the entire universe one simple fact? in the US of A, trials do not exist to settle matters of fact, they exist to settle matters of law, and since the Scopes trial, not a damned one of them has blazed any new ground. writers, using trials to debate issues is cheating! cheating! knock that shit off!